Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reports, Pix from July 19 Cities


This photo was received from Tehran by our friends with the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization and they've shared it with us. Call me a big baby, but the photo, with only hands shown lighting a candle and a strip of the rainbow flag amid the burning candles, made me cry. Thanks very much, gay Iranians, for allowing us the opportunity to call attention to your plight.

UPDATE, August 22:


Here is a breakdown of locations for this year's July 19 actions. Also, scroll down for the latest photos added to this post, which come from Stockholm and Toronto.

Four continents:

Asia
Europe
North America
South America

Fifteen nations:

Austria
Belgium
Canada
Colombia
France
Iran
Ireland
Italy
Mexico
The Netherlands
Poland
Russia
Sweden
United Kingdom
United States of America

Twenty-seven cities:

Amsterdam
Bogota
Brussels
Chicago
Dublin
Esfahan
The Hague
London
Marseilles
Mexico City
Milan
Moscow
New York
Provincetown
Salt Lake City
San Diego
San Francisco
Seattle
Shiraz
Sioux Falls
Stockholm
Tehran
Toronto
Tulsa
Vancouver
Vienna
Warsaw
Washington

Now, on to the reports and more photos!

From Kurt Krikler in Vienna:

About 40 people gathered today in front of the “Iran Air” office in downtown Vienna to protest against the execution of gays in Iran in particular, against the death penalty in general, in Iran and other countries, against the total ban on homosexuality in Iran and everywhere else. In the context of the protest, HOSI Wien also demanded that Austria grant asylum to gay and lesbian refugees from Iran and other countries with a total ban on homosexuality and must not deport gays and lesbians to such countries.

For two minutes, the protesters also blocked the Ringstraße in front of the State Opera, with a huge banner denouncing the killings of gays in Iran. Fotos from HOSI Wien are posted here.
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Andrew Sullivan writes from P-town:

A small but distinguished band of men and women joined me in Ptown for an hour this evening. The beagles came, rendering the vigil less than completely silent, but we made our quiet point. A constant stream of street traffic kept stopping to look, frown, gasp, and occasionally asking for information. Writer Michael Cunningham came; the artists Chet Jones and Denny Camino and photographer Norma Holt came. And then a few of us wandered up to the tea dance to remind the revelers that others aren't so lucky.
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From Nikolai Alekseev in Moscow:

The event was the first public action of the Russian gay and lesbian community after the May 27th banned gay pride.

Around 20 gays, lesbians and human rights activists from different groups attended the event. Like during the Gay Pride in May, the main Russian Human Rights Group declined to join. Some individuals were also seen supporting the demonstrators. In fact, the organizers explained that they decided to remain discreet after they got the positive reply from the authorities. The event was not advertised in the medias to avoid its cancellation by the authorities. [...]

Lots of photos now posted. Click here.
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Rick Rosendall reports from Washington, DC
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An information table was set up on the south side of the Dupont Circle fountain, with posters of the 19 July 2005 hangings of Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari on display against the side of the fountain. The banner of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance was stretched on the ground below the posters, with a collection of candles below that. 58 people signed a petition expressing their solidarity with Iran's persecuted LGBT community, and many people filled a notebook with messages of support, which were to be transcribed into an email to be sent to the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization. After the spoken remarks, which are transcribed below, people lit candles and there was a moment of silence. [...]
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Lukasz Palucki checks in from Warsaw:

First pics here:

We had 30 people. I will send you more pics and our statement tomorrow. It was very interesting. Embassy of Iran prepared specially for us, table with materials that Iran respects Human Rights.

Hugs
(tired) Lukasz
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Our pal Lars provides an update from Mexico City:

These are the first pictures from the 19th of July event in ContempoBar in Mexico City: click here.

An English summary of the event, which had 4 prominent speakers and aproximately 45 engaged participants, will be published tomorrow. One Spanish article was published today. A second with more photos will appear tomorrow. Here's the introduction:

Tarde lluviosa de miércoles. Más de 40 personas nos dimos cita para conmemorar y reflexionar en solidaridad con Mahmoud Asgari y Ayaz Marhoni, dos adolescentes que fueron ejecutados en público en la ciudad de Mashad, al este de Irán exactamente el 19 de julio de 2005. Más de una veintena de ciudades en el mundo exigimos respeto a la dignidad y a la integridad de los seres humanos en todo el planeta. Así empezó el evento, una mesa redonda denominada "No Sólo Debemos Vivir y Olvidar", que contó con la presencia de tres oradores: Alonso Hernández Victoria, de la ENAH; el Psic. Saúl Beltrán Leyva, de la Agrupación Humanista Demócrata José María Luis Mora; y el Maestro Eloy Rivas, Subdirector del Programa de VIH-SIDA y Derechos Humanos, de la Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH).
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My notes from our event in San Francisco:

Our vigil and speak out here hit all the right notes for me. At the height of our hour-long event, we had 60 people. Very happy the city provided us with a speaker system and that the speakers addressed matters of grave concern. We heard from Iranian American SF Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi; Lance Lindsey, director of Death Penalty Focus; Bevan Dufty, Pastor Robert Goldstein of St. Francis; Scott Oswald from the Mayor's office; yours truly, and The Sisters performed their magic blessing for the crowds gathered round the world today. Clinton Fein took our pictures and shares them on his site.

Before we began, a gay Iranian in his late thirties, introduced himself and said he just learned about the action today and showed up. He declined my invitation to speak for a few minutes. Afterwards, I made the acquaintance of another gay Iranian, about 23 or 24-years-old. He also only recently learned about the rally. I told him how sorry I was I didn't know this, because I would have invited him to speak. And the last thing he wanted was to speak to a crowd about being gay and Iranian!

Thanks to all who showed their solidarity with us and gays EVERYWHERE today.
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Gay youth leader Michael Barron tells what took place in Dublin:

The protest here went really brilliantly yesterday. There were about 300 people there with banners, placards and loud voices!

The meeting was organised by the BeLonG To youth project. Oisin O'Reilly from BeLonG To addressed the meeting saying, "Mahmmoud and Ayaz were born in Iran and they were executed for who they were and how they loved."

Reports that they were executed for the rape of a 13-year-old were dismissed by Colm O'Gorman, founder of One-In-Four, who also addressed the meeting saying, "Iranian officialdom would have us believe that these two children, and they were children, were executed for the rape of a 13-year-old. There's extensive evidence to completely dismiss that assertion. These two boys were in some type of loving relationship. It's also clear they were involved with a group of other teenagers who identified as gay. There's a suggestion that a family member reported their relationship which resulted in their arrest and execution."

Senator David Norris complimented the "brilliant group" BeLonG To for their work and said "The one thing I regret about this demonstration is that it is not right outside the Iranian embassy to let them know what we think about them and their filthy work."

Photos available. Click here.
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Our friends at UK Gay News tell about London's event:

The two exiled gay Iranians who were due to be at the House of Commons yesterday evening for a “protest meeting” on homophobic and other persecutions in Iran pulled out at the last moment. Explaining their absence, Peter Tatchell of Outrage! said that it “Spoke volumes” as to the reason for the meeting.

“One is too frightened to come this evening as he feels his attendance might adversely affect his asylum application now with the Home Office,” Mr. Tatchell said.

“The other was scared that the Iranian regime would find out he was here – and that could cause a problem for his family in Iran.” [...]

Mr. Tatchell then told of an email he had received from inside Iran which said the regime has gone on the offensive and are condemning the international day of action. [...]
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Stephen Barris reports from Brussels:

15 groups endorsed the vigil that was organised yesterday evening at 8 pm in front of Brussels Stock Exchange. Our slogans were: "Legal in Belgium; Death Penalty in Nine Countries" and "Decriminalize Same Sex Everywhere. Now!"
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Andy Humm shares this note with us from NYC:

About 100 LGBT activists and our supporters gathered at the Iranian mission to the UN on Third Avenue and 40th St. to protest the ongoing executions of gay people in Iran.

IGLHRC dumped their sponsorship of this vigil at the 11th hour on Friday--long after it had been advertised to the public by Gay City News and our Gay USA cable TV show and with no time to inform readers and viewers that IGLHRC believed the best way to be in solidarity with worldwide protests of Iran's anti-gay regime was to have a "dialogue" about it in Greenwich Village. They also scheduled their forum AGAINST the time of the vigil.

I addressed the crowd briefly, emphasizing our demands that the horrible mistreatment of gay people in Iran end, that other countries--including ours--grant asylum to gay Iranian refugees, and, most emphatically, that we oppose the Bush saber-rattling over Iran. Ann Northrop read the letter from the gay Iranian groups. The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of NY, spoke about their truly international commitment to LGBT issues. [...]

From what I've heard about the "dialogue" downtown at the LGBT Center, IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch ran a kangaroo court condemning all of us for our Western insensitivity, prompting someone in the audience to say, "So what you seem to be telling us is that there is nothing we can do to help the situation." A more objective report on their forum will appear in the Gay City News in a day or two.

All in all, I'll put our left credentials at this action--assembled in a few short days--up against anything IGLHRC is doing.

We could use HELPFUL suggestions for action from IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch, not condescending guilt trips. We refuse to be silent when gay people are being oppressed anywhere.

Photo taken by Joe Jervis, who has posted more pix on his blog.
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Randy Wicker's video report from HRW and IGLHRC's dissident meeting in NYC:

Sparks flew when a representative of Human Rights Watch and an independent Iranian-American filmmaker criticized stories in Gay City News, one of the USA's most respected journals, as being "bad reporting" which was based on second and third-hand reporting. Scott Long from Human Rights Watch said descriptions of intensified harassment of gays in Iran could not be verified. Editor Paul Schindler angrily defended articles by reporter Doug Ireland which insisted two teenagers were hung in Iran simply because of their sexual orientation and consensual sexual activities. The independent Iranian-American filmmaker angrily criticized Gay City News and the American gay press in general for covering events in Iran in a way that was "really more about what is happening in this country". He said American gays demanding American forces "protect" Iraqi gays was "the worst thing" imaginable because it caused them to become identified with the occupying forces. The arguments reflected a complex mixture of sexual & cultural global politics.
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From our organizer in the Windy City, Andy Thayer:

Chicago’s protest took place in front of Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue.

Besides Iran, public executions of gay people have regularly taken place in U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia, and a leading Iraqi Shi’ite cleric closely allied with the U.S. recently issued a fatwa calling for the killing of all gays.

Despite the barbarity of the clerical regime in Iran, we will not allow our protests to be used as a pretext for war. “Even as we oppose these executions, it must be clear that we also oppose threatened military attacks on Iran by the United States or a surrogate such as Israel,” said GLN's Bob Schwartz. “Such attacks would only make matters worse for Iranian gays and non-gays alike. Bombing gay and non-gay people in Iran is the antithesis of helping them."

Towards the end of the protest, we confronted anti-gay bigots who were harassing people going to a concert being held in conjunction with the Gay Games.

More photos posted here.
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Our San Diego organizer Michael Mussman shares his report with us:

We expereinced a breakthrough in community activism when 13 citizens gathered together to commemorate the lives of Mahmoud and Ayaz, the two teen boys hanged in Mashhad on July 19, 2005.

Participants met at the corner of a busy interstection downtown, in front of the US Federal Building and Courthouse, and beneath the shadow of NBC studios. We waved two huge posters -- blown-up photos taken of the victims at the site of the execution. Among us were a gentleman Kurdish expatriot and refugee, and a young gay student from Iran. A local pastor and several of our straight allies also appeared.

We received several friendly honking horns from drivers passing by, and dozens of pedestrians took flyers, stickers, and asked questions. A report from ABC 10 showed up to interview me, and the interview appeared on last night's local News at Eleven. We also welcomed a journalist from a small local newsmagazine, who took several pictures for his upcoming article.
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Our buddy and organizer in The Netherlands, Mike Tidmus, will soon send us a report in English. Until then, we have photos to share from Amsterdam and notes in Dutch:

In Nederland werd bij het Homomonument woensdagavond een wake gehouden met sprekers namens het COC, de Persian Gay & Lesbian Organisation (PGLO) en de International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR).

Frank van Dalen, voorzitter COC Nederland, beklemtoonde in zijn toespraak bij het Homo-monument te Amsterdam, dat de executie van Mahhoud Asgari en Ayaz Marhoni in de Iraanse stad Mashad, duidelijk gemaakt heeft dat Iran een onveilig land is voor homoseksuelen.

De wake bij het Homomonument werd afgesloten door het oplaten van 1000 witte ballonen uit een wereldbol - symbool van het wereldwijde protest tegen de executie van Asagari en Marhoni en een teken van hoop voor de slachtoffers van dit soort van geweld tegen holebi's.
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From COC about their action at the Iranian Embaassy in The Hague:

Eerder op de dag werd in Den Haag een petitie aangeboden aan de Iraanse ambassadeur. Daarin werd geprotesteerd tegen de onderdrukking en executies van homoseksuelen in Iran. De petitie werd mede aangeboden door John Blankenstein, bestuurslid COC Haaglanden - midden op de foto, en Henk Krol, namens de Stichting Vrienden van de Gaykrant - links op de foto.

Op dit moment rondt het ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken een nieuw ambtsbericht af over Iran. Op basis daarvan zal minister Verdonk in de komende weken een beslissing over de positie van Iraanse homoseksuelen (en christelijke) asielzoekers nemen.

COC Nederland heeft daarover op 19 juli overleg gevoerd met vertegenwoordigers van het ministerie.
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Our friend Bill Schiller shares his report from Stockholm:

Some 30 demonstrators -- Swedes, Iranian refugees in Sweden and visiting from Germany -- outside the Iranian Embassy on a Stockholm Island. Banners condemning the hanging of homosexuals in Iran, posters with photos of the hanging.

Speakers: Swedish member of parliament from the lIberal Party, visiting German-based head of the International Iranian Refugee Council, a representative of the Swedish Iranian refugee council and yours truly, representing Tupilak & Nordic Homo Council -- also reading the 5 demands from Outrage.

Media coverage: One Stockholm newspaper with photo, national Swedish radio, Radio Sweden International in English, Swedish, German and Persian. Local Persian-language radio statons. Long article in Swedish gay website, QX.

(And strong praise from the 2 policemen and 1 police women commandeered to the event -- who had to very reluctantly move us down the street from the Embassy entrance when embassy officials called the police chiefs and demanded that the protesting, and mega-phoine chanting demonstratiors be moved away!)

Great working with you all! Sorry for the short delivery, but am off to Riga in a few hours. Will get a hold of the newspaper photo as soon as possible.
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This report is from our Persian gay friends in Toronto:

On July 19th 2006, the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization held an event in Hart House, University of Toronto to commemorate the first anniversary of the two teenagers who were executed in Mashhad, Iran. The event attracted around sixty gay and lesbian activists and reporters from CBC, Fab Magazine, Extra Magazine, Shahrvand publication and Radio Farda.

Mr. Arsham Parsi, gave a brief talk in memory of the two teenagers who were unjustly sanctioned to death.

After him, Dr. Victoria Tahmsebi, a professor at the University of Toronto, gave her talk on the tragic situation of homosexual people in the homophobic society of Iran. She explained how Iranian homosexual people have to go through their lives with the constant fear of imprisonment, torture and death.

Ms. Niaz Salimi, the President of the Canadian Muslim Congress, was the next lecturer. She put the main focous of her lecture on lesbians’ experiences of discrimination. Lesbians, along with all other women who failed to conform to the patriarchal, heterosexual norm, were thought of as abnormal, and treated or punished accordingly.

The next speaker was Mr. Al-Farok Khaki, the President of Salam Organization, which is a Muslim Queer Organization. Mr. Khaki gave a historical overview of Salam’s origins and activities. Salam was originally founded in the City of San Francisco in 1993 as a Muslim Queer Organization with the purpose of raising awareness about issues of sexuality among Muslims, and challenging the often unquestioned presumptions about Quranic condemnation of homosexuality.

The final speaker was Mr. Glen Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Mr. Murray was the first openly gay mayor in a large North American city. He expressed his deep concern for millions of homosexual people who are under systematic oppression and discrimination, and subjected to violence and extermination.

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Our favorite journalist Doug Ireland shares this photo with us from our good friends in Marseilles, where 15 gay and progressive organizations demonstrated in solidarity with all the other world cities on July 19. No report yet from the French organizers.
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Why, you may be wondering, does Moscow's action merit a second photo? One reason: A photo from the Russian action ran on the Reuters news wire! Reuters explains the photo:

A gay rights activist stands with a poster reading 'No to Violence in Iran!, Stop Cruelty and Death!' as gay rights activists protest against the hanging of homosexuals in Iran, in front of the Iranian embassy in Moscow, July 19, 2006. REUTERS/Anton Denisov
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The brave members of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization share new photos with us, from their homes. The first is from Esfahan, Iran, and seeing that our brothers and sisters in their country not only lighted candles, but they also placed them in windows, facing the world.


And this is from Shiraz, Iran. Thanks PGLO and all gay Iranians for showing your solidarity on July 19.
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(No photo)

The fine people at Seattle Gay News share this report:

Short notice and record hot summer sun limited the turnout at the July 19th solidarity event in Seattle. But about a dozen people participated. Bill Dubay, longtime local activist read an excellent statement from the Washington State Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The statement cited the often used death penalty to deny rights to oppressed groups; people of color, low economic status and in some cases, “simply having affection for someone of the same sex, being gay.”

Chrissey spoke as a transgendered person about concerns with the Bush administration and the need for change. George Bakan, longtime senior editor at the Seattle Gay News gave a report on the events around the world in solidarity with the issue.

There were flowers, candles and posters at the free speech plaza in front of Seattle Central Community College, in the gay community neighborhood on Broadway, called Capitol Hill. All participants vowed to continue work on the issue and to promote it earlier for next year to build participation. Even a group of students studying there for their online management degree agreed to chip in and help out more.

A letter voicing concerns to the Iranian government is also in process from the Seattle city council, under the efforts of the openly gay council member Tom Rasmussen.
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And from way, way south of the USA's border, comes this dispatch:

Hi, I just wanted to add a little report of our activity here in Bogota, Colombia.

Volunteers from the gay rights organization Colombia Diversa collected around 600 signatures on a petition calling for an end of torture against LGBT persons in Iran. The petitions were delivered to the Iranian Embassy in Bogota with a copy of our complaint sent to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Relations.

Much more information about us is posted here. Attached is a photo of a Colombia Diversa volunteer.

Thanks for everything,
Andrew Dier
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One of the last-minute cities to announce it would participate, Tulsa, provides a report and a video:

Our fantastic organizer in Oklahoma, Laura Belmonte, sends word that nearly twenty concerned citizens made it to their vigil that took place after the sun went down.

She doesn't have a photo to share, but says a two-minute clip of the Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights candle light ceremony is available on the web, with Laura linking local gay and progressive concerns to some of the horrible conditions gays in other parts of the world must endure. Check out this tape from America's heartland: click here. For lots more imfo on TOHR's advocacy work and programs, visit their home on the web.
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Gay youth organizer Jon Hoadley shares this report from Sioux Falls, South Dakota:

More than a dozen people gathered at Calvary Cathedral to take a moment and remember the one-year anniversary of the hanging of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, two gay Iranian teens executed for being gay. The candlelight vigil was one of many similar event around the world coordinated by OutRage! and the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). The Sioux Falls event was sponsored by the local gay community center and St. Matthew the Martyr.

After remembering the Iranian victims, we also took time to remember victims of homophobia in America. We noted that according to hate crime statistics tracked by the FBI, in 2004 over 1,200 hate crimes due to a person's sexual orientation were reported. Currently, South Dakota does not have a law prohibiting hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
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From gay youth leader Fabio of ArciGay comes a report from Italy:

Thirty people gathered in Milan for a public ceremony made to remember the history of two gay teenagers hanged in Iran one year ago. Activists from many LGBT organization gathered in front of the Italian Offices of the European Commission.

We handed out a declaration saying "after one year little has changed. Youngsters in Italy, in the Europe, in the whole world are still forced to grow up in severe conditions where their dignity, human rights and lives are violated on a daily basis. In light of these situations, public and institutional reaction is often silence or little action for change. We claim our concrete actions make many differences and honor diversity, so that one day there are no more causes of discrimination. We honor the different people and elements that enrich our society."

During the demonstration we protested against "guilty silence which surrounds violence against LGBT people" and we called upon our national and international institutions to protect and recognise social value of diversity, to combat discrimination and promote respect of human rights for gays and all people.

Our ceremony was endorsed by the European youth campaign, "All Different - All Equal," a campaign to increase cultural diversity, human rights for everybody and increased education, which is supported by the Council of Europe for 2006-2007.
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Our gay brother and organizer to the north, Finn Kovaltsenko, sends word that a handful of people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for a speak out about gays in Iran, the two gay victims hanged last year and the need to organize for all gays and lesbians across the planet. The activists lit candles in solidarity with all the other vigils taking place on this day.

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July 19 actions and vigils also occurred in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Gloucester, UK, but I've not received written reports yet from our friends and organizers in those cities. Once those reports come in, they will be posted here.

2 comments:

Adolf_bin_Streisand said...

From this flag-waving, red-blooded American hetro dude, thank you VERY much for shining a light on this tyranny.

We're lucky here in the West, as I really think we’re moving on from making an issue about how people choose to have sex, and with whom.

You know what? Most of us just don’t care. It might take another generation, but we’ll get there because the core value of our society is individual liberty. In my 10 yo’s class in a small Western Mass town, there are 2 kids w/ same sex parents, and it’s encouraging to see how much of a non-issue this matter is with the kids.

The West’s challenge, of course, is figuring out how we “corrupt” other closed societies with freedom. Unfortunately, I think the Iraq/Afghanistan sitch shows it can’t be imposed, particularly on a people and culture that has no history of individual rights. The carrot will likely be more efficient than the stick.

Anyway, thanks again.

Michael said...

You're most welcome. Time to organize for next year's July 19 dayu of action ...?